Submitted by Molly Gannon-Washington Post to Veterans Today
A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post after a three-year legal battle reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.
The documents contain more than 400 interviews with insiders who offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.
John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews entitled “Lessons Learned,” acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”
With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation.
The interviews also highlight the U.S. government’s botched attempts to curtail runaway corruption, build a competent Afghan army and police force, and put a dent in Afghanistan’s thriving opium trade.
Additional excerpts are below. Read the full story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/
MORE FROM THE SERIES:
- [T]he interviews show that as the war dragged on, the goals and mission kept changing and a lack of faith in the U.S. strategy took root inside the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department… The Lessons Learned interviews also reveal how U.S. military commanders struggled to articulate who they were fighting, let alone why. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-strategy/
- Year after year, U.S. generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy — to train a robust Afghan army and national police force that can defend the country without foreign help. In the Lessons Learned interviews, however, U.S. military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters… None expressed confidence that the Afghan army and police could ever fend off, much less defeat, the Taliban on their own. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-army-police/
- As commanders in chief, Bush, Obama and Trump all promised the public the same thing. They would avoid falling into the trap of “nation-building” in Afghanistan. On that score, the presidents failed miserably. The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan… The Lessons Learned interviews show the grandiose nation-building project was marred from the start. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-nation-building/
- The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption. In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/
- Meanwhile…Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of a growing scourge: opium. The United States has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-opium-poppy-production/
Molly Gannon Conway